Nearly 7,000 prisoners in Myanmar, including some former military intelligence officials who had been purged by their army colleagues, have been given presidential pardons.

An Information Ministry statement posted on its website said 6,966 prisoners, including 210 foreigners, will be freed from various prisons across the country "on humanitarian grounds and in view of national reconciliation." It was not clear if pro-democracy activists were among those being freed under the pardon, which is effective Thursday.

The pardons by President Thein Sein are timed to coincide with a Buddhist religious holiday and come ahead of a November general election. The polls have triggered criticism of Thein Sein's government that it is backsliding on political reforms it promised upon taking power in 2011 after almost five decades of repressive military rule.